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Pros and cons of IT certifications that can be earned online versus through proctored testing.

In 2000, almost three million online certification tests were delivered, six times the number the year before and close to as many as were delivered in proctored testing centers. The popularity of online certifications is taking off because they are cheaper, more convenient, more representative of the work environment, and typically offer better feedback than proctored certifications. What they don't do is verify your identification. The tremendous growth of online certification has brought a fundamental new question to the certification arena:

Is the time and money required to have your ID verified in a proctored testing center worth it?

Online certification and proctored certification represent two different perspectives of what certification is. The question is - which type of certification is right for you? Both types offer challenging questions developed through rigorous processes by experienced subject matter experts. The difference lies primarily in the approach to security that the certifiers take. Supporters of proctored certification believe that much of a certification's value stems from the fact that the test environment is as secure as they can make it. Supporters of online certification believe that the value of certification comes from measuring what you know, and that companies should work with people who they trust rather than spending their efforts proctoring people who they don't trust.

A Tale of Two Test Takers

Last month two help desk technicians, Bob and John, decided to certify their internet skills to help them get new jobs. Being different people, they decided to take different approaches. Bob took a CompTIA Inet+ certification at a proctored testing center while John took a Brainbench Internet Technology certification online. This is their story...

Bob went to the CompTIA website to schedule his test. After transferring to the testing company's site he discovered that the Inet+ test would cost him $190 and could be taken at a variety of testing centers in his city. Scheduling a test was not difficult using the web-based scheduling system but it was a frustrating experience. After signing up Bob had to wait up to 24 hours for a password to access the scheduling system. Then, when he went to schedule a test, he discovered that the system could not schedule a test within the next two business days. Selecting a testing center was also disappointing. Although he had several testing centers to choose from, the closest one only offered testing 3 days a week and many centers did not offer evening or weekend testing - he was going to have to take time off work and/or drive across town to take the test. On the day of the test Bob was swamped at work and called the testing center to reschedule his appointment to a different day. He was told that if he didn't take the test that day he would lose his money. Bob rushed to the testing center and took the test. The testing center environment was very controlled and did not allow Bob to use the reference manual and job aids he usually used in performing his duties. Bob passed the test and received a score report that told him his score, and that he would receive his certificate in 4-6 weeks. Bob was happy - it had taken him 2 weeks and $190 but he was Inet+ certified.